ESA Wide Field Aurora Imager

The monitoring of Aurora from the poles helps preventing from geomagnetic storms which could create dramatic consequence on earth, such as giant black-outs. The ESA space Weather department is ordering a study on a Wide Field Aurora Imager (WFAI) dedicated to the monitoring of Aurora from low-orbiting nano-satellites embarking VIS and  UV wide field cameras. We are in charge of the optical design and prototyping of the UV camera covering a 60x60deg² field of view at 135nm wavelength.

Optical design: Kelly JOAQUINA
UV imagers characterisation: Simona LOMBARDO
Prototyping: Emmanuel HUGOT

Project Prime: PYXALIS SAS
Partners: Grenoble University Space Center (CSUG), Marseille Astrophysics Lab (LAM)
Curving of UV Sensors: CURVE SAS

ESA contacts: Melanie HEIL, Indraneil BISWAS


We are in charge of the manufacturing and delivery of all the super-polished mirrors of the NASA/WFIRST Coronagraphic Instrument, dedicated to exoplanets imaging and characterisation from space. The manufacturing method has been developed and optimised by PhD student Mélanie ROULET, who combined the potential of additive manufacturing with the stress-polishing technique, only technique capable to provide extremely smooth surfaces for freeform mirrors, with a roughness down to 2 Angströms.

The picture below illustrates the Power Spectral Density obtained after the stress polishing of the OAP #7 prototype, developed in the frame of the ERC ICARUS. This is compared to the 2*f^{-2.5} specification. The very low level of the PSD expresses the very low level of noise in the final image. The zone between [3;30] cycles per pupil corresponds to the zone where the exoplanets are located in the final image of the instrument. Getting a very low level of noise helps revealing the tiny exoplanets which luminosity is a million to a billion times lower than the parent star they are orbiting.

The CASTLE telescope, first curved sensors on-sky demonstration for astronomy

CASTLE, the Calar Alto Schmidt-Lemaître Explorer is the very first on-sky demonstration of curved sensors for an astronomical application. It will address two cutting-edge astrophysical topics: the search for the electromagnetic counterpart of gravitational waves and the observation of Low surface brightness objects. The first light is planned for Summer 2022, it is installed at the summit of the Calar Alto Observatory in Andalousia, south of Spain.
The project is done in collaboration with the companies Pyxalis in Grenoble, Winlight in the south of France and Sinoptic in Shanghai.
The scientific Consortium gathers the Observatory of Strasbourg, the Institute of Astronomy of Andalousia and the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille.
This is a 1.2M€ project, funded by the MERAC foundation and the European Astronomical Society-EAS, the French research agency-ANR, the European Community-EC through the European Research Council-ERC and the French national research center-CNRS.

Project Lead and scientist: Simona LOMBARDO (
Opto-mechanical architect: Eduard MUSLIMOV
Mechanical engineer: Ali FAHAD
PhD Student, integration & tests: Kelly JOAQUINA
French side: Emmanuel HUGOT (CNRS-LAM) & Pierre Alain DUC (CNRS-ObAS)
Spanish side: Francisco PRADA (CSIC-IAA)

Related publications
White paper:  Lombardo, Hugot, Duc, Prada et al “CASTLE: performances and science cases”
Simona Lombardo+2019 “Next-generation telescopes with curved focal surface for ultra-low surface brightness surveys”, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy P – Oxford Open Option A, In press, ⟨10.1093/mnras/stz2068⟩. ⟨hal-02263343⟩
Eduard Muslimov+2017, “Fast, wide‐field and distortion‐free telescope with curved detectors for surveys at ultralow surface brightness”. Applied optics, Optical Society of America, 2017, 56 (31), pp.8639-8647. ⟨10.1364/AO.56.008639⟩. ⟨hal-01678500⟩


Picture credit E. Muslimov – CNRS-LAM

(The project is co-funded by the CNRS, the CSIC, the MERAC Foundation and the European Commission through the ERC-STG-2015 – ICARUS-678777 and the ERC-PoC-CURVE-X-839271)


CURVE-One develops the technology of curved/freeform imaging detectors and provides solutions for compact and cost-effective cameras and optical systems.

Founded in 2019, CURVE One counts four employees, all working together for more than 5 years.  Our close-knit team gathers the following technical skills: Curved/freeform detectors manufacturing, testing and characterization.  Optical design of compact/high performance cameras with freeform detectors.

As for today, we are supported by two European Commission Horizon-2020 programs, an ERC Proof of Concept Grant and an ATTRACT project. We develop a scientific camera for the Institute of Neurosciences in Marseille and we work with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the design and prototyping of a compact space UV camera for Aurora monitoring.